Southgate towers rejected by councillors

New tower blocks planned in Southgate (credit Viewpoint Estates)
The new tower blocks would have been built adjacent to Southgate Circus Conservation Area (credit Viewpoint Estates)

Report by Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

A developer’s bid to build tower blocks close to a Grade 2-listed tube station has been turned down by councillors.

Viewpoint Estates’ plans for five blocks of flats ranging from three to 17 storeys high at Southgate Office Village in Chase Road were unanimously rejected at a meeting of Enfield Council’s planning committee on Tuesday night.

The scheme would have provided 216 homes, with 35% classed as affordable by habitable room – with effectively no parking spaces for residents.

It would have been located 150 metres from Southgate Underground Station, a listed building that first opened in 1933, while it also would have sat immediately adjacent to the Southgate Circus Conservation Area.

Planning chiefs at Enfield Council had recommended the development be approved – despite admitting it failed to meet the borough’s minimum affordable homes target of 40% for new schemes.

They pointed out Enfield needs to provide 1,246 homes every year – and with much of the borough taken up by Green Belt and Strategic Industrial Land (SIL), there is a need to build on brownfield sites close to town centres.

Planning bosses said independent experts deemed adding more affordable homes to the scheme would make it financially “unviable”. Andy Higham, the council’s head of development management, told the meeting: “Officers acknowledge the overall offer and tenure split does not comply with the current adopted policy but is based on the scheme’s viability to deliver the optimum form of development for this site.

“The financial assumptions underpinning this approach have been independently assessed by a consultant appointed by the council, which concludes that the amount of affordable housing is more than the site can viably support.

“Although this is a substantial development, it cannot meet all our policy aspirations.”

But opponents of the scheme cast doubt on these claims and spoke of the harm the development would cause to those in neighbouring streets. Preenal Gondhea, a chartered surveyor, claimed he had calculated a smaller, 157-unit scheme would make a significant profit for the developer “without such a visual impact on Southgate town centre”.

A resident of nearby Hillside Grove told councillors the development would cause “huge impacts on every aspect of our home lives, our health and our mental wellbeing”.

He added: “With life changing after the pandemic and many people permanently working from home in the future, privacy and mental health are more important than ever.”

All three ward councillors – Conservative member Stephanos Ioannou, Labour’s Charith Gunawardena, and newly independent member Derek Levy – spoke against the scheme.

Planning consultant Holly Mitchell defended the plans on behalf of the developer, but admitted presentations made to residents had not been “perfect”. She said: “There is a housing crisis across the country, and it is most acute in London.

“40% of the borough is Green Belt, and therefore land supply is restricted. The policies direct high-density into town centres well served by public transport.

“Town centres like Southgate evolve over time. We consider the scheme would be a further evolution of Southgate town centre.”

But committee members were unconvinced the benefits of the development would outweigh the potential harms. Tim Leaver (Labour, Palmers Green) said residents’ views did not seem to have been properly taken on board in the design of the scheme. Hass Yusuf (Labour, Chase) told the meeting he did not think there were enough studio units for younger people getting on the housing ladder.

Mike Rye (Conservative, Town) said it was “completely unacceptable” for an application of this size not to meet the minimum 40% target for affordable homes.

After two-and-a-half hours of debate, councillors refused the plans on several grounds, including the height and massing of the planned buildings, the lack of affordable housing, the proximity to a site of a heritage asset and the detrimental impact on neighbouring properties.